Between Shapes is Kaori Takamura’s new exhibition, which opened February 1 at Gebert Contemporary in Scottsdale. Approximately ten of her complex mixed media pieces show how she is able to envelop the chaos in their structure and use that energy to help bring each piece to vibrant life.
Takamura, who was a graphic designer for twenty years, still has an artistic relationship with the computer. She utilizes it in her process. The end result of these pieces features laser-cut shapes that are silkscreened with prints and patterns and stitched onto a surface of wood, the thread and the woodcuts mingling to create a multitude of motion.
With the computer, Takamura plots each piece to her exact vision – each shape, its placement, its print and color, and each dot that will be aligned with dots on the wooden backdrop for the stitching. This intense strategy is something Takamura has an affinity for. “I love the labor-intensive process,” she says, “and watching the work evolve.” The precision threading was something she mastered through trial and error.
Her dedication is apparent. The pieces swirl with bold colors, a tangle of wood and thread, and a blend of shapes and pattern. Despite the complexity, each one makes absolute sense. They’re engaging and whimsical, which also maintains the artist’s vision. “I want them to be warm and joyful,” she tells us.
The use of numerous shapes and symbols is a strategy Takamura brings to her work from her previous design career, making it her own. “For two decades, I created symbols and logos for companies to use in their corporate branding, and that has always made me think about symbols and what they mean in everyday life,” she says.
The wood is a new avenue for Takamura. Previously, she utilized canvas, which gave her work more of a textile look. “I wanted to give the work more of a 3D feel. I didn’t want a completely flat surface,” she says. She likes that the pieces sometimes have the look of classic toys. “Laser cutting sometimes burns the edges, and I like how that adds to that vintage look.” That nostalgic look isn’t simply an aesthetic she likes but one that harkens back to her childhood. “I want that look and feel in the artwork to highlight a simplicity of how life used to be.”
She strays from that particular style for a couple of pieces in the exhibition. A graphic image of a typewriter with text incorporated is a nod to her love of the “simple and dynamic” work from the graphic design movement in 1980s Japan. Another piece captivates with its darker palette that maintains a look of black and white, not immediately giving way to the purples and greens that are included.
Evolution is Takamura’s focus. She will be expanding on her use of wood for future pieces. “I like the freedom I get from this style; each part of what I do is an achievement, a step into the next realm.”
Through February 28